Vino Sicily: An Offer you can’t Refuse

Just as in all forms of art, there is no “Best Film Ever”. Yet, with this year being the 50th anniversary of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterly The Godfather, it is obvious that some works of art are more timeless in their greatness than others.

Last night I watched The Godfather for what must have been the 45th time and was as just as riveted and enthralled as I was upon that first viewing 40 years yonder in a dim bughouse off Leicester Square.

Good films have a strong and direct influence on me. Directly after experiencing Pulp Fiction in the 1990’s I wished for nothing more than to be black, wear an undertaker suit and to – like Samuel L Jackson’s character, Jules – emit quotes from the Bible in a cool and threatening tone. I stumbled on the verge of signing up for fighter-pilot training after seeing Top Gun and  more recently spent a fortune on a dashingly coloured Smeg toaster after spotting one in an apartment appearing in Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory.

Don Corleone

Fortunately, that most recent viewing of The Godfather did not have me develop an increased urge to decapitate a horse and to surreptitiously slide the head under the covers of a sleeping movie producer. But the saga of the true Sicilian Mafia having it out in New York during the atmospheric 1940s did have a lot of wine-drinking in it, and this saw my hand – the gun-free one – twitching for the taste of something winey and of the Sicilian kind.

The closest location from which to heed this calling this is the Pink Valley restaurant-winery out in the Helderberg, Stellenbosch that sells wines made at all properties owned by the French Oddo family. Besides the Pink Valley wine itself, the selection includes the stuff from family’s Serra Ferdinandea winery in south-west Sicily. And this is heaven for a lover of The Godfather, as Serra Ferdinandea is located only 40km south-east of the town of Corleone from where young Vito hot-footed it to America to become Don Corleone, the main Mafia cannoli in the film we are talking about and in which he is played by, magnificently, by Marlon Brando.

The Serra Ferdinandea selection includes a red blend of Nero d’Avola and Syrah, while the white sees Sicily’s native Grillo variety blended 50-50 with Sauvignon Blanc.

With the autumn sun still, bright, I sit down with a bottle of Serra Ferdinandea white, which combines two grapes known for being aromatic. Sauvignon Blanc needs no introduction in this department. And as for Grillo, well, the variety was created in the 1800’s to add a floral, aromatic component to the fortified Marsala wines for which Sicily has been known for far longer than it has for quality table wines. For long, Sicily was the bulk-wine factory of Italy and the local industry only began striving for premium quality and terroir-expression in the 1980’s.

At Serra Ferdinandea the white grapes ripen in the summer months of August, with Sauvignon Blanc the first to attain the correct levels of phenolic ripeness for harvest. This variety is usually harvested between the third week of August and the first week of September, while Grillo is picked in mid-September – depending on the specific climatic vagaries of each year. Grapes are cooled overnight, and only free-run juice is used. Prior to fermentation the wine undergoes two weeks’ cold settling and is stirred daily. Fermentation is done in a combination of large wood vessels and stainless steel, whereafter the wine is aged for nine months in foudré and large barrels.

Lighting a short, fat Cuban cigar as I pour, the wine spills into the glass the colour of pale straw with subtle, pale green hue the colour an icy kelp pool. On the nose, not spectacularly aromatic of the showy tropical kind. Powerful potpourri, some dried Provence herbs, and a drift of honey. It is all very European on the palate, harnessing flavour, texture and body in a classic whole. Presence initially overpowers taste and flavour, the wine being cool, wet and long, about as long as the wheeping of a Sicilian widow who has just lost her husband to the thrust of an opponent’s vendetta knife. Although not vice-like, the grip which the wine commands attention is formidable with a firm confidence bordering on the edge of being a threat.

But flavours do abound, and they are lovely: Undertones of white flowers, honey and nuts open to a vivid array of taste leading with citrus, lemon-peel to a contained buttery complexity. There is a maritime rush and some clam shell which sharpens the senses as you hope that it is only Luca Brasi sleeping with the fishes.

For now, the wine is Sicilian heaven in a glass or two.

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